This week we have been staying with Lydia's mum up in Caloundra
, north of Brisbane
on the Sunshine Coast.
Life is slow up here, even when spending the day writing papers and essays. The heat makes the middle of the day lazy, lounging around on the veranda, feeding the kookaburras scraps of kangaroo meat and watching the rainbow lorikeets squawk in the trees. Nightly we have been having huge tropical storms, with lightning flashing down followed by a slow rumble of thunder that echoes backwards and forwards off the clouds.
We also saw the movie Australia
. It was rather clumsy in parts, but overall I thought it was fantastic, showing real emotion in places.
Well worth people seeing, both for the magnificent scenery and for our national shame that it highlights. Aboriginals came to Australia at least 40,000 years ago and possibly 125,000 years ago, and since then they have developed in essentially complete isolation except for the last 200 years. Consider the advances that the Egyptians, Romans, Chinese, Arabs and Europeans made in short spurts of just hundreds of years and expand that over a hundred thousand years in the longest continuous human culture the planet has ever seen. Except, of course, Australia's resources do not conveniently jut out into the landscape, so this hundreds of thousands of years of cultural evolution focused not on industrial development but rather on social development. They developed the most complex set of familial relationships of any human culture and the elaborate Tjukurpa
which we cheapen as a "creation myth" featuring animal spirits such as the rainbow serpent, but which in reality were a set of complex interwoven tales that contained the sum of all knowledge within the culture. Tales more complex than any celtic knot, which can be told at multiple different levels in order to impact knowledge on medicine, law, geography, hunting, weather and relationships. The same tale sung in a different way could contain directions on how to cross a desert or which plants to use to stem blood loss.
This amazing edifice of human culture was destroyed by Europeans in just a few decades. Where 250 languages once stood, now only 20 have any chance of survival. The stories that once contained such knowledge have now been stripped to the bare bones. Cultures have, quite frankly, been annihilated. And now these peoples, still manging to cling to an identity we tore away, are treated with patronising paternalism at best, and open racism at worst.